Another day of Youth Devotional with fun, games, and spirituality. This week, after our songs and games, we had our youth draw out what the word “future” means to them. They were to use only red and black paint. At the end of their drawing, they were to explain the meaning of their art.
In the bible lesson, Calvin, our youth leader, described that the two colours characterised relationship and friendship. As for the word “future”, it was to teach a point about the type of friendships that we form today; our friendships will strongly affect our future, whether good or bad.
- Proverbs 12:26 One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
- Proverbs 13:20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
- Proverbs 17:17 A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.
- Proverbs 18:24 There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor 4:16-18
Ubud, natural paradise that is high up in the mountains of Bali. Tourists throng to this place every year for serenity, beauty, peace, and a little spirituality. Some come to her rivers for wild waters experience. Others just sit quietly as they meditate in her terraces of green paddy fields. Some others soak in her soft cultural music, dances, and activities that surround them. Others are busy buying beautifully crafted handiworks and delicate paintings.
I too went to Ubud with my family this December holiday. On our way up there, we were caught in a traffic jam in the town area of Ubud. For a short 1 to 2 km, we took more than an hour to travel through the one lane traffic. The roads were congested with motorbikes, cars, bicycles, and people – all wanting to experience Ubud. In the jam, I was feeling frustrated, stressed, and a little impatient. I could not believe the amount of people and vehicles on this tiny road. Yet, in the midst of my frustration, I still pushed on cheerfully because I wanted to see Ubud. I was eager to experience all the culture and nature that she could offer.
This reminded me of our own journey to heaven. It is not always smooth. In fact, it is not smooth at all. It is completely filled with traffic jams of troubles, distractions, temptations, worries, and challenges. But the scripture in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 gives us encouragement on how to push on our arduous journey. Paul says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
I wanted to see Ubud. Though I was uncomfortable, I cheerfully endured the momentary troubles of the heavy traffic I was in.
Heaven is more beautiful than Ubud. One hundred times more glorious than Ubud. A thousand times more cultural than Ubud. A million times more natural than Ubud. I want to be in that heaven. On our way up there, to this wonderful place, there will be momentary troubles and traffic jams that we will have to face while on this earth. Just as I fixed my eyes on the unseen – the beauty of Ubud, I too need to fix my eyes on the unseen eternal glory that is waiting for me. My momentary troubles will come and go, but that destination, my final destination, heaven, will always be there waiting for me.
As I was in Bangkok, last weekend, I was amazed by the sight of hundreds of electrical wires looping around poles, hanging in plain sight, and chaotically supplying power to the city.
Bangkok is a city that never sleeps. Millions of homes, televisions, computers, traffic lights, street lamps, shopping centers, giant malls, office towers, government buildings, and retail shops are powered by tons of heavy electrical wires hanging on sturdy concrete poles. Without this myriad of wires, the city would be in total darkness. Chaos would run wild. People are so dependent on electrical power.
These electrical wires reminded me of Jesus, the vine, the eternal source that supplies life, energy, strength, and convictions to us. Our lives are so dependent on Him. Through His Spirit, invisible to our human eyes just as electricity is, He supplies the needed life resources to us. These life essential resources zap back and forth through the Spirit’s wire to us. Without Him, the vine, the power running through these wires into our lives, we too will be in total darkness. Chaos would run through our lives.
“And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”” Romans 10:15
I was saved because somebody took the courage to invite me, a foreign student at the University, to church some thirty years ago.
At that time, I was such a people pleaser. I would commonly say, “Yes, I will come,” but never show up. I was just what you call a Nice Guy, who seldom said “No.” I didn’t mean what I said. I just said it because I liked to make others happy. It was, after all, impolite to say “No,” at least that was what I thought. I am sure you have met people like me.
It must have been so frustrating for my friend who kept inviting me, waited for me, and found no one at the meeting point. Worst of all, I wouldn’t even inform him that I would not be going. Each time I met him on the next day, I would ignorantly smile and happily chat away with him without even being aware of how I made him feel by constantly promising, never showing up, or informing him.
Truly, how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. He kept persevering with me and never gave up. After a long year of invitations, I finally came. I still remember that day and how pleasantly surprised he was to see me, all dressed up, waiting quietly for him at the empty front entrance of the dormitory.
After that, it was history. God worked in my heart and I was baptized within one to two months of studying the bible thoroughly.
Romans 8:31-32 “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
Have you ever thought about God’s love? It is like a continuous rainstorm, never ending and ever showering. Every drop is filled with the sweetness of His love. It drenches us and freshens us in the heat of all our struggles. Oh, how I love to run and dance in that rain.
God’s love is like the ocean’s wave, crashing over the sea again and again; never ending until we feel all of His love. It thunders over our heads. It swamps us and engulfs us. It makes us sail across its powerful surfs and thrills us with joy and laughter.
You Made Me Brave – song by Amanda Cook & Bethel Music
Psalm 34:4…7 I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,and he delivers them.
“A dear friend of mine who was quite a lover of the chase, told me the following story:’Rising early one morning,’ he said, ‘I heard the baying of a score of deerhounds in pursuit of their quarry. Looking away to a broad, open field in front of me, I saw a young fawn making its way across, and giving signs, moreover, that its race was well- nigh run. Reaching the rails of the enclosure, it leaped over and crouched within ten feet from where I stood. A moment later two of the hounds came over, when the fawn ran in my direction and pushed its head between my legs. I lifted the little thing to my breast, and, swinging round and round, fought off the dogs. I felt, just then, that all the dogs in the West could not, and should not capture that fawn after its weakness had appealed to my strength.’ So is it, when human helplessness appeals to Almighty God. Well do I remember when the hounds of sin were after my soul, until, at last, I ran into the arms of Almighty God.”– A. C. DIXON.
I am driving aimlessly down Highway 44 (because I love driving a little too much, and it is one of my more expensive stress-relief methods) with my iPod on shuffle and Do What U Want by Lady Gaga comes on. Of course, being alone in the car means I can belt out pop songs in my full volume and not worry about being kicked out of society for disturbing the peace, and it also means my mind is free to come up with the most random associations to songs I listen to.
As a twenty-three-year-old Psychology Major, Senior in college, and self-proclaimed guru on how not to be in a relationship, I was inspired to consider how not allowing people to “do what you want” with your body, mind, heart etc. is part of healthy self-love. In light of a recent breakup, I’ve been on a roll with existential questioning and more in-my-head pep talks than usual. The chorus of the above Lady Gaga song stuck with me all week, like gum sticks to ratty hair and refuses to loosen it’s hold no matter how hard you tug. It wasn’t until I started writing this article that it finally left my head. So thank you for the inspiration, Lady Gaga.
There has been a recent influx of articles all over the Internet about taking care of your heart and what self-love can do for your overall well-being. These are not new ideas, but in times where life becomes too fast-paced due to the wonders of technology and many of us forget how to be still, being reminded to listen to what your heart needs is vital. In my opinion, emotional well-being for men and women alike, takes precedence as it affects all areas of life.
A Harvard School of Public Health research article from 2011 finds correlations between a positive state of mind and better state of health. Laura Kubzansky, associate professor at Harvard and a forerunner of research on the positive state of mind and its impact on physical health believes that instilling “emotional and social competence in children… would help confer not only good mental health but also physical resilience for a lifetime.” She goes on to warn society that it is not simply a one-step method and that staying positive and working towards a less stressful life despite predisposed living circumstances is a work-in-progress for each individual. We are cautioned not to buy into a one-size-fit-all theory and to find out what personally helps us be at our most healthy emotional state.
The happier your heart, the better you feel physically, so start looking out for it!
Here’s are some steps that I live by, and have to be reminded of by loving friends on days when all I want to do is wallow in self-doubt and negativity:
- Feelings are normal. Be okay with feeling. There is no such thing as a wrong or negative feeling. Validate the way you feel in the moment, acknowledge it and then move forward with what is important to you.
- There is no set amount of time for grieving. Do not let anyone tell you when to start or stop grieving. Only you know when enough is enough, and it is time to move on. A healthy heart is one that is allowed enough time to process grief (or any emotion).
- Forgiveness of others and oneself is a key step to a healthy heart. That does not mean going back to someone who does not respect you or treat you right, it simply means freeing your heart from the burden of anger and grudges.
- Let healthy people in; cut out people who aren’t. I used to think cutting people out of my life was the harshest thing I could do. But over the years, and after many painful, unhealthy relationships and friendships, I have learned that this is part of deciding to love oneself. Healthy people encourage, respect, love you, tell you the truth and help you to grow. Unhealthy people bring you down and hinder any type of positive growth. (A good read: Safe People by Henry Cloud and John Townsend)
- Do what YOU want with your body. Allowing yourself room to say no to people and things that you know are personally damaging to you is a powerful thing. Harmful activities or people may seem to fill a void in the beginning, but after a while it only wears down your heart. Everything in moderation is a healthier way to go.
- Have relaxing hobbies. Set aside time weekly to do whatever you are passionate about, be it painting, hiking, or watching a favourite TV show. I found that doing something that makes me happy a few times a week that is not work-related, and doing it alone improves self-confidence and strengthens one emotionally. Helping others is a great hobby that not only makes others feel better but helps your heart stay content too.
- Be by yourself more. I surround myself with busyness daily and sometimes this busyness is to keep me around people so I don’t feel lonely. Lately, I have seen the benefits of taking time away from people and learning to be content on my own. It is entirely uncomfortable at first and takes time to work up to longer periods alone, but it becomes extremely rewarding and empowering once you make it a habit.
- Be Mindful. Take note of your surroundings. Notice small things that make you smile. Write things down. Be in nature. Meditate. Breathe deeply. Be in a place that requires you to be still. Take stock of what is good in your life.
- Be Active. Exercise at least fifteen minutes a day. It can be in the form of working out at the gym, yoga, a short walk during lunch break, biking, a swim or anything that gets your body working. Endorphins are released when you exercise. This chemical interacts with the pain receptors in your brain and triggers positive feelings. It’s the body’s natural Morphine!
- Let go of control. This is the hardest step for me. I am a perfectionist and a worrywart. Learning that nothing in life is actually in my control has helped me work towards self-love and a healthier outlook.
Remember that taking time to love oneself is important. All these steps require a conscious, constant effort. No one can make the decision to nurture your heart other than yourself. It’s a beautiful, empowering process. Begin working hard to love the most vital organ you have, and you will be grateful as time goes by.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
– Proverbs 4:23
Written by my daughter, Erica Lee